Is A Moment a piece of flash fiction? Is it a scene in a much longer story? Is it a poem trapped in a cage of prose? I’ve no idea. But sit with me a moment and I’ll tell it to you, and you can decide.
Barefoot, she stands in the snow under the neon orange light of the lamppost, fingerless gloves hanging in tatters to hands that are gnarled by years of toil. She draws on the damp toothpick roll-up ferociously, drawing the thin blue smoke into her lungs as if it can warm her from the inside out.
The glowing end of it lights her face from beneath, throwing her wrinkles into strange shadows. She could be forty or seventy or anywhere in between, under her shapeless hat and bulky wool coat.
She notices you watching her, from the safe little bubble of warmth and light of the covered bus stop you’re sitting in. You drop your eyes, embarrassed at being caught staring, but her huge eyes pull you back in, and you find yourself raising your head again to find her.
She is still staring at you. She takes one more thoughtful drag on the roll-up, head tilted to the side, not breaking eye contact, then flicks it away into the gutter. You can’t look away, you’re frozen in her headlights. Then she smiles a smile like Christmas morning, just for you, and winks.
A lorry passes between you, swishing through the slush, and you fumble in your pocket for a coin for her, just so you can talk to her. When it passes, she has gone.
You look for her, but following tracks in the snow isn’t as easy as they make it look in the films, especially when the snow in question is the dirty brown slushy muck of all city snows, and the evening has long since been dark.
You think of her, even now, when you can’t sleep, and wish you could draw so you could capture those eyes.
With special thanks to my dear friend, Barefoot Backpacker, for letting me use their image, and editing it especially for this post.
If you enjoyed A Moment you can read more free fiction and poetry in Victoria’s notebook.
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